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Disciplinary Hearing: What must you do when conducting a disciplinary hearing?

employees Feb 15, 2023
Disciplinary Hearing: What must you do when conducting a disciplinary hearing?

Disciplinaries are something we would all rather not get involved with – the hope is that employee situations can usually be dealt with without having to resort to them.

But in some cases, that’s not possible and that’s where a disciplinary procedure comes in. 

What is a disciplinary hearing?

If you ever need to handle unacceptable behaviour at work, your firm needs to act formally to deal with it, and that includes a disciplinary hearing.

In this context, "unacceptable behaviour" could refer to either an employee's conduct at work or their ability to do their job.

The term "conduct" refers to incorrect or unacceptable behaviour.

In terms of their ability to do the job, the focus is on job performance. While some businesses opt to handle performance-related issues through a disciplinary process, there are other options that we would recommend – please get in touch if you’d like to discuss them.

The disciplinary process

Your disciplinary procedure should be spelled out in detail in your handbook.

It's important to note that many problems can be resolved amicably without the need for a full disciplinary.  Before you engage in a formal disciplinary procedure, keep in mind that a mistake or misinterpretation might be resolved with a brief chat.

Several crucial steps should be included in a proper disciplinary procedure:

  1. An investigation into the issues
  2. An initial letter outlining the allegations
  3. The disciplinary hearing itself
  4. The disciplinary decision
  5. An opportunity to appeal the decision

How to carry out a disciplinary investigation

It's best practise to let a person who isn't directly involved in the matter conduct the investigation whenever possible, such as a different manager.

You must also inform the employee that an investigation has been launched against them.

A successful disciplinary investigation should accomplish the following:

  •  Determine whether a case has to be answered.
  •  Establish the facts
  •  Adopt a fair procedure that ensures that each person's perspective is heard.
  •  Compile any evidence and supporting documentation.
  •  Assist the employer in determining whether to implement additional disciplinary measures

It's crucial to acquire as much information as you can about the issue before conducting an investigation. That can entail keeping track of pertinent emails or conversations made by other workers.

After reviewing all the information, the person carrying out the investigation may decide not further action is required.

If further action is needed, then a copy of the investigation notes should be given to the manager who will conduct the disciplinary hearing.  If they also believe further action is required, then the employee must get a written invitation to the disciplinary hearing.

Writing the letter

Sending the employee a disciplinary letter follows the conclusion of the investigation. This letter must inform them of the allegations you plan to cover in the disciplinary hearing, 

It should also specify the date, time, and location of the meeting, as well as the participants and potential outcomes – it’s best practice to give them a few days’ notice, rather than springing it on them.

Employees are allowed to someone with them; either a co-worker or a union representative.

However, their companion cannot answer questions on the employee's behalf at the disciplinary hearing.

The disciplinary hearing itself

Generally it’s best to schedule a disciplinary hearing at a time when you’re least likely to be interrupted, and in a place that provides privacy to everyone concerned. 

During the disciplinary hearing, you must

  •  Explain the allegations against the employee.
  •  Review the information you have gathered regarding that behaviour.
  •  Give them a chance to explain what happened.
  •  Adjourn the meeting to consider your next course of action, including the appropriate disciplinary measure.

What options do you have?

Do nothing

You may determine that no further action is necessary if you are satisfied with the justification your employee provides you at the disciplinary hearing. Simply let the employee know they don't need to worry, no further action will be taken.

Written warning

The employee is formally informed that their behaviour has to change with a written warning.

Final warning

This is how you escalate the disciplinary process, if you've already issued an employee a written warning and their behaviour hasn't changed. It informs the employee that they must alter their behaviour or more drastic measures would be applied.

Termination of employment - Dismissal

The employee's contract may be terminated by their employer if it is determined that they engaged in serious misbehaviour or if their behaviour has not improved despite written and final warnings.

The Appeal

Every employee has the option to challenge the conclusion of their disciplinary hearing if they believe it to be unjust or too harsh.

If they decide to challenge the judgement, you will need to invite the employee to an appeal hearing—ideally with a different person, not the person who carried out the disciplinary.

Need some help with a disciplinary hearing?  At J Mann Associates, we’ve got decades of experience, and have helped our clients conduct hundreds of disciplinary hearings – give us a call on 01980 622167 to discuss your issue now.

Do you need help with your people management?

Whether you’ve got a specific HR query, you need your HR foundations in place, or you’re looking to build on those foundations and create a team that can function without you, we’d love to talk about how we can help you make it happen.

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